Saturday 29th May
Aah it’s the annual trip to islay for the whisky festival , it’s hard to believe it’s the third one in a row we’ve been to , especially after the first one we said we wouldn’t do it again ! It’s more like a gathering of old friends now , the group of friends seems to be getting bigger every year !
We got back to getting up at the more reasonable hour of 4am this year ! Nothing unusual happened on the way to the ferry either , no fighting wildlife ,nothing . We tried to book the candlelight dinner on the way but couldn’t get through , luckily Tamara once again came up trumps and got us on .
It was just before 3.30pm when we got to the accommodation for this year , We decided to go self catering and managed to get booked up in The Inns By in Bowmore . We were so impressed by the place when we got there we promptly booked the place for the 2005 festival !
Once we’d unloaded all our stuff we headed of down to Ardbeg to grab a couple of festival bottlings and catch up with old friends .It was also our first look at the newly refurbished Old Kiln , having got there at a little after 4pm and bumping into Ian Gray (well known Scottish Distillery and landscape artist !) , We spent a couple of hours catching up on news and gossip over coffees and beers . We spent the rest of the evening having a curry in the Taj Mahal Bowmore (it didn’t seem as good as last year ) and found out that there’s a rival restaurant and take-away now in Port Ellen , Has Islay gone Curry Mad ???
Sunday 30th May
Monday 31st May
|Once again we woke up to brilliant sunshine ! A fairly quiet day started of with a drive down to Bunnahabhain to pick up the Móine bottling , a 7yo peated malt done as an experiment in 1997 , it’s very good and i look forward to the regular peated stuff they’ve started doing . Then it was down to ardbeg for lunch and a superb lunch it was , the seafood salad is a dream and Marys clootie dumpling……Mmmm Clootie Dumpling !
After another outstanding meal we headed of along the road to Claggain Bay . If you get the chance go along to this bit of the South shore its absolutely outstanding . We also stopped at Kildalton Church and Ardilistry Bay to see our old friends the seals.
The evening was finished of in grand style by one of the most beautiful sunsets over Loch Indaal we’ve ever seen .
Tuesday 1st June
Another quiet day of sorts , a drive over to Port charlotte for a bite of lunch and a quick drop into Bruichladdich to pick up a valinch we couldn’t pick up on sunday . Then onto the Ardbeg Candlelight dinner for an Evening of fine food and whisky .
We were 2 of the Lucky people to get onto this meal along with Tamara and her husband Richard ….
Feel the spirit of Ardbeg…..
Ardbeg very young and its tapas…
Oyster on a bed of chopped beetroot and avocado puree with herb jelly . Red PepperTortilla . Brochette of Chicken marinated in whisky and a Spicy sauce with mint , Cherry Tomato and Cheddar .
Glen Moray 12 years old
Shellfish and Salmon in a saffron and whisky nage .
Glenmorangie Tain L’Hermitage
Pan fried Islay Lamb chops with a spicy honeyed sauce , served with raisin and hazelnut polenta , parsnip chips and boiled potatoes .
Ardbeg Fino cask 1975
Dark chocolate Tart with Cappucino Sauce.
Coffee with a surprise.
The meal was as wonderful as ever , Mel and myself loved the combination of the chocolate tart and the Ardbeg 1975 , i know Richard enjoyed the Oysters , seeing he got Tamara’s and Mel’s ! Mel also enjoyed the Tain L’hermitage , I’ve never seen her savour a whisky so much and for so long !
Wednesday 2nd June
||If it’s Wednesday, It’s Bowmore day ! An early start for us , the 9am Craftsman tour , a tour with a slight difference , as well as the guide telling us about the process , at every stage of it the “craftsman” involved gave us a bit of a lecture about his bit in making the whisky .
At 11.30 am we hit the No.1 vault for a rather interesting hour and a half in the company of Robin laing telling us of the Bowmore Legends of the Vaults . Basically he was telling us of the legends and fables to do with the Isle of Islay , This guy is a story teller supreme , one of the highlights of this years festival .
In the afternoon Mel went off on her own as i went to the Bowmore masterclass , fairly standard stuff , we started with New Make (68.8%) then went through the range .The 12yo , Dusk , Dawn , Darkest , 17yo and the 25yo .
after the tasting the day took an interesting turn , i bumped into Ian on his way out of the distillery , he asked if Mel and i wanted to have a trip down to Port ellen to cop a look at the “Pirate” boat (knowing that this was the Glengoyle mob trying to get their un-peated stuff on to the great whisky Isle , i thought he meant to throw empty Ardbeg bottles at them or something like that !:-P 😉 ) . So off we went , on arriving there we boarded the ship (called Taora i think ) , it was full of liggers and general hanger-on’ers (also known as whisky journalists ,whisky merchants and distillery workers !!!! After getting a load of abuse off Richard Joynson ( Just remember Richard it’s us “Punters” who keep you in the lifestyle to which you are accustomed ! ). We then ate their food and drank their alcohol and left , HA !
Joking aside it was a good evening and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing how the other half live ! Thanks for letting us aboard .
Thursday 3rd June
|A quiet day after the all day drinking of Bowmore day ! We went for a meal to the Croft Kitchen in Port Charlotte , Damn fine place , great food (we both had lovely Islay steaks) . Also tried the new Islay Ales , the draught “Blackrock” was ordinary but the Bottled “Finlaggan” was a joy , very fruity and a joy to drink .
After a slight rest we headed off to Ardbeg for the Midnight tour with the Main Man , Stuart .
Another great night (Morning ? ) in the company of “The Laird of Kildalton” , there’s always something weird about coming out of a tour with the sun rising over the hills !
Friday 4th June
Our last full day on the Isle spent quietly pottering about before we headed of down Bunnahabhain way for the condensers Ball , we didn’t stop the full night but we enjoyed the entertainment laid on , John Maclelland was in fine form as was Jim McEwan .
The stories of the night (and festival) were Stuarts about His son Harry’s adventure in the West country and Jims about the Excisemans Dog , great stuff !
We headed of to pack our stuff for the morning departure out of our accommodation .
Saturday 3rd June
Ardbeg Day ! We would only see part of the day as we were booked on to the Afternoon ferry . The Ardbeg Brunch was superb , first time we’d had stovies , up to the usual Old Kiln Standard .We had a wander round , a look at the Auction lots , we went along to the warehouse to see how Stuarts surgery was going , then we bid our goodbyes to everyone and headed to Port Askaig for our journey back to the mainland .
Another year over , Next year to look forward to , thanks to everyone on Islay for making it a great week and we look forward to returning ….at least we’ve got the spoils of war to remind us of it ….